There are many valuable lessons to be learned from Acts 8. Here are two that stood out to me:
1. Go forward in a spirit of boldness, not one of fear and timidity. If you know me well, you know I LOVE the movie The Princess Bride. (Yes, I realize this movie is now a classic!) Spoiler alerts ahead! If you have ever seen the movie, you will recall the scene where Wesley is leading Buttercup into the Fire Swamp and Buttercup fearfully exclaims to Wesley, “We’ll never survive” and Wesley replies to her, “Nonsense. You’re only saying never because no one ever has.” True to Buttercup’s fears, they encounter the widely known dangers of the Fire Swamp: fire, quicksand and R.O.U.S.’s (Rodents of Unusual Size). In reading Acts 8, especially on the heels of Stephen’s stoning that we read about in chapter 7, one might imagine an atmosphere of fear and timidity could have easily festered in the Christian community. In Acts 8:1 we read about a great persecution that began against the church. We read of Saul who was waging war against the Christ followers, going from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison. One might think Christians might have chosen to go underground and keep a low profile. As we continue reading the chapter, we find just the opposite to be true. Christians were scattered about because of this persecution, but we read in verse 4 that they continued to preach the word. In verse 5 we read how Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ. This wasn’t a clandestine type of preaching, his bold proclamation of the gospel was also accompanied by miraculous wonders such as healings and driving out of demons.
In John 15:20 Jesus tells us, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” We are not promised a trouble-free life. Jesus assures us this life will bring us trouble and persecution if we follow him. What should our response be to persecution? Do we shrink back and try to keep a low profile? Or do we move forward with boldness like Wesley and Buttercup in spite of our fears? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Jesus assures us we will have trouble in this life, but we are never ever alone. He reminds us of this in John 16:33 when he tells us, “I have told you these things, to that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
2. Be sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Your Christian life is unscripted. In many ways, it is a wild adventure. We have the most excellent advantage of knowing how the story ends and that the good guys do win after all, but there will be many plot twists in between. In verses 25-40, we read about how an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip sees an Ethiopian eunuch and we read in verse 29, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’.” We continue reading that Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch and the eunuch declares his belief that Jesus is the son of God and gets baptized by Philip. We later read that Philip gets snatched away by the Spirit to Azotus and preaches the gospel in all the cities on his way to Caesarea. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit means we will lead life unscripted and we will often be pushed out of our comfort zones. What is the Holy Spirit stirring you to do? Be sensitive, be open and be bold. A grand adventure awaits…
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I find myself to be a world champion worrier. This skill started when I was a child: storms terrified me! I soon learned as long as I could hear the airplanes (I lived under a flight path!), everything was ok. As I grew up, my fears changed: what kind of job would I have? Would I find a good husband? (I did!) And now, I worry about my sons. Are they safe, will they find a good spouse, and will they continue to follow God?
I finally made the decision to turn my fears over to God. Many times, the Bible tells us God is on our side. He knows what is going to happen: both good and bad, he is in control no matter what! I am still unsure and often frightened, because I’m human. As long as I don’t stay in the place of me taking control. I need to move towards God and give Him the control, as it should be. Take a moment to examine a place where your worries are preventing God from being in control. Give God the control and leave it with Him.
So far this week, we have discussed topics on having a Christ-centered life, God’s Will vs. our will, why it’s important to worship through singing, and that we all have a purpose. Today we will be discussing the importance of standing up for Christ.
In today’s society, topics such as religion and Christianity are shunned. Some people avoid speaking on the topics and others try to intimidate or harass those who do. This is known as persecution. Christians are being persecuted all over the world. Some even to the point of abuse or death. Christians are being persecuted for worshiping God, believing in Jesus Christ, reading the Bible, or even speaking or practicing the teaching of Christianity.
Do you ever feel uncomfortable mentioning topics about Christianity? Do you feel like you will be in trouble or scrutinized? Those are feelings and thoughts of fear.
“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” -Psalm 118:6
“I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.”
We should not let fear overcome us. We should put our faith in God and He will take care of us. He will definitely take care of us if we are glorifying Him, sharing His Word, and standing up for His Son, Jesus Christ. God wants us to stand firm in our faith and proclaim the message of the Gospel.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” -John 14:6
By proclaiming the Gospel message and sharing our faith we are standing up for Christ. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through Him. We need Jesus in our lives. We need to follow Him. We need Him as our friend.
We need to stand up for Him. I love the hymn titled “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”
The first verse sings “Stand Up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss; From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.”
The last verse ends with “To him that overcometh A crown of life shall be; He with the King of glory Shall reign eternally.”
Do you want to reign and live with Jesus Christ eternally in the Kingdom of God? I know I sure do!
We need to stand up for Christ now, so we can stand with Christ in His Father’s Kingdom which will be established on earth.
Today I encourage you to not fret, worry, or live in fear. God is for us. Jesus Christ died for us. And now we need to live for Him! Share the Gospel message, live a life that represents Jesus, and stand up for Christ!